Vietnam Memorial, What’s Next?

Over the weekend, I visited Washington DC. It was a beautiful fall day and a lot of other people had the same idea as I had. In addition, there was a marathon underway and a fair number of out of towners came along to run, cheer, and sight see. Along the mall, from the Capital buildings to the Lincoln Memorial, people of all ages walked, biked, strolled, or jogged.

I was struck by the majestic nature of the architecture, old blending smoothly with the new and modern. Well almost everywhere. One huge exception jumped out.

If you remember the mall, at one end is the Capital, standing on a raised area with its gleaming dome. In the middle is the Washington Monument standing tall and slender. And at the far end is the Lincoln Memorial with its many stairs and tall columns. Now there is a World War II memorial (dedicated in 2004 by George W Bush).

The WWII memorial is a large oval composed of columns with each of the US states and territories names. On each column is a large (4 foot in diameter) oak lead cluster. In the middle of the monument is a reflecting pool. Some how, the monument seems out of place. It does not communicate like the Cemeteries in France with thousands of white crosses.

Just before the Lincoln Memorial and slightly to its north lays the Vietnam Memorial. It is a cut in the ground that slowly descends about twelve feet below ground level before gently rising again. On the walls are the names of all those who died in this, the longest of all US wars. This simple memorial carries the power of the fields of crosses in a most compact manner.

At the WWII monument, people played, at the Vietnam memorial visitors walked silently with many searching for the names of lost friends and family.

I was struck by two thoughts. Why would someone design one monument with so little impact as the WWII for a conflict of such magnitude. Or was it simply that the Vietnam Memorial was design with so much genius?

I was also struck by what type of monument would be appropriate for those who gave their lives for Iraq and Afghanistan?

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